Hemangioma

1 What is Hemangioma?

Hemangioma is a birthmark with an appearance of a rubbery, bright red nodule of extra blood vessels in the skin.

It is sometimes referred to as a strawberry mark. A hemangioma grows during the first year of life and  begins to recede with time.

A child who had a hemangioma during infancy usually has little visible trace of growth by the age of 10.

A hemangioma can be located on any part of the body, but  the common places are the face, scalp, chest or back.

Treatment for a hemangioma is not necessary, unless the nodule interferes with vision or breathing.

2 Symptoms

The main symptom of hemangioma is flat red mark that can be located anywhere on the body, most often on the face, scalp, chest or back.

A hemangioma may be present at birth, but in many cases, appears within the first several months of life.

Children usually have only one mark, but this may vary as some children may have more than one. During the a child's first year, the red  mark grows rapidly and becomes a spongy mass that protrudes from the skin.

The hemangioma proceeds to a rest phase and, eventually begins to slowly disappear. Half of all hemangiomas resolve by the age of 5 and nearly all by age 10.

The color of the birthmark fades but faint discoloration of the skin or residual extra skin may remain.

3 Causes

The exact cause of hemangioma is not known.

A hemangioma is made up of an abnormally dense group of extra blood vessels.

There is not any clarity to what causes these blood vessels to group together, although genetics is believed to play a part in it.

4 Making a Diagnosis

A hemangioma is diagnosed based on appearance. No diagnostic tests are necessary.

5 Treatment

The majority of hemangiomas never need any form of treatment.

However, some parent think hemangioma treatment is necessary because the marks can be disfiguring and may cause social or psychological problems.

Doctors, however, may be hesitant to treat a hemangioma that is not causing any physical problems because hemangiomas usually fade with gradually without any form of treatment.

Treatment can potentially have side effects, which is another reason why doctors prefer not to treat hemangiomas.

If the growth interferes with a child's vision or causes other problems, treatment options may include the following:

  • Corticosteroid meications with side effects such as poor growth,
  • high blood sugar,
  • high blood pressure
  • and cataracts.

Laser eye surgery can also be used in the removal of a hemangioma that will not heal. Side effects of using lasers include pain, inection, bleding, scarring and changes in skin colour.

Research to find other treatments with fewer side effects is still ongoing.

Some newer, though still experimental, treatments include beta blockers, interferon alfa and topical immune suppressants. 

6 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with hemangioma.

Hemangiomas occur more often in: 

  • females,
  • premature babies,
  • white infants.

Occasionally a hemangioma can break down and develop a sore.

This can further lead to pain bleeding, scarring or infection.

Interference with the vision, breathing or hearing of a chield depends on the situation of the hemangioma.

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